As prescribed by Paulina Constancia

Queries on QUAKES 5: How has the catastrophe changed the lives of survivors?

Welcome to Day 5 of ‘Queries on Quakes’. Today, we conclude our series with the stories of survivors.
During man’s nomadic past, whenever the earth rumbled, people took what they could  grab and just ran as fast as they could to a safer location. They settled on new grounds until it wasn’t safe there once again, and they moved again. It seemed so simple then. 
Earthquake disasters became so massive when people built solid structures and settled permanently and accumulated more material possessions than they could ever carry singlehandedly in case they have to run for their life. 
Shaken? Terrified? Yes, it’s natural to feel that way when an earthquake occurs. Is God punishing us? Nope. If you believe in God, then you believe that he is a creator, a great designer. Think of an earthquake as yet another one of his renovation projects. We just have to be prepared anytime to move safely ‘out of the way’. 
Is there a lesson God is trying to teach us? An earthquake may be a good opportunity for purification, of reassessing our lifestyles and priorities. Have we become so attached to material things? In a way, our predecessors-the nomads- had it good because they only grabbed what was most important: LIFE.
To all those who have lost their loved ones from an earthquake or tsunami, my heart goes out to you… I share your pain but I also say… Be strong! Carry on! You, my dear, have a special purpose. You must now live in a way that you give honour to the loved ones you have lost.
I have gathered for you some of the most touching stories of survivors. They are reminders for us that: “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside while still alive. Never surrender.” (Tupac Shakur)

1. Ayaka Ogawa, Survivor of  the 2011 Earthquake & Tsunami in Japan

The natural disaster left Ayaka without her parents, a sister, grandparents and the house she had lived in for 17 years. “I was left all alone on this planet,” she said. Ogawa wondered why she was the only survivor in her family.  “I felt like my heart and soul were gone,” she said.  But after the disaster, she said she met others who dealt with similar tragedies. “I learned the beauty of people being connected with each other.”  Read more of “Orphaned by tsunami, survivors tell stories of loss” on browndailyherald
Ayaka Ogawa lost her entire family on March 11, 2011 when the tsunami struck her hometown of Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture. Yet her resilience, grace, and optimism for the future in the face of profound tragedy has inspired many, as demonstrated in her moving remarks at a April 18 TOMODACHI event. Read more…

Watch this extraordinary documentary of the 3.11 Tohoku disaster- from the point of view of those who lived to tell their story.

2. Marie & Mirlanda 
 Survivors of the January 12, 2010 Earthquake in Haiti
Meet MARIEmother & entrepreneur taking first steps in rebuilding her life
Ask what happened to her leg and she’ll say simply, “January 12th.”  Like it did with so many others, the day of Haiti’s devastating earthquake changed Marie’s life forever. It also left an estimated 2000 Haitians as amputees.
Healing Hands for Haiti and Handicap International are working to give Haitians back their limbs as well as their lives.  Their facility in Port au Prince offers every service new amputees need and at no cost to the patient.  They do everything from providing consultations to measuring for prosthetics, to manufacturing them, to teaching patients how to use them.
Marie has been making steady progress and has gotten very comfortable with her new leg.  It’s the first step in rebuilding her life. She lost her home, grocery business and her husband in the earthquake. Now, she lives in a tent with her two young children.  
“Being disabled doesn’t bother me,” says Marie in her native Creole. 
“I have two hands and I only lost one leg and I have the prosthetic. 
The only problem that I have is taking care of my kids.”  Read more…
* Watch this video of Mirlanda, a young survivor of Haiti’s Earthquake. She says she wants to be a nurse someday because she liked watching the  nurses at work at MSF’s St. Louis Hospital

3.  María Belón, survivor of 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami
-physician, spokesperson, and advocate

María Belón: The Impossible’s Real-Life Survivor
Read her story on PEOPLE
María is known for surviving the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami when she was on vacation in Thailand with her husband Enrique (Quique) and three sons Lucas, Simón, and Tomás Belón. She was severely injured in the tsunami and nearly died.
She was portrayed in the 2012 film The Impossible by Naomi Watts, who received a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her performance.The family’s nationality was changed to British in the film. María was highly involved with the making of The Impossible and was on set in Thailand for the making of the film in the same locations as the original tsunami. She spent much time with Naomi Watts and helped her prepare for the role.
María has appeared on numerous television shows, including Charlie Rose and The View, discussing her experience of making the film and her family’s experience of the tsunami. She has been outspoken in regards that her story of survival is not the only one, and that she is only one of many who suffered and survived. She now works as an advocate for those still recovering from the effects of the tsunami. She has stated about her experience:
“The tsunami was an incredible gift. 
I embrace life. My whole life is extra time. 
There is no difference between me-a Spanish woman named María 
who is alive-and thousands of moms who are under the sea. 
I do not deserve to be alive, but life is not fair. 
I feel pain and compassion for so many others 
who didn’t come back up or lost the ones they love. 
My whole story is on my body. 
And it is wonderful because it means I am alive.”
Read more on Wikipedia
Read this article: Seemingly impossible: Miracle survival of family who inspired new tsunami movie
“Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts star in a drama based on the real-life story of a Spanish family caught up in the tsunami that followed the Indian Ocean earthquake of 2004. The disaster killed 230,000 people across 14 countries when the earthquake hit on boxing day.” (Dec 26, 2004)
“The movie really captured the horrific time that survivors went through trying to locate family members with whom they had just hours before been enjoying an idyllic Christmas holiday.  The randomness of why people survived versus those that didn’t is hard to comprehend.  Out of couples and families, it was unusual that all members of the family made it through alive.  As for me, I am forever thankful that I ended up on the side of randomness of those that lived.  Survivors of the tsunami share a special connection, knowing what it is like to come so close to losing everything.  For those that were lucky enough not to have had to live through it, The Impossible does a very credible job of providing a glimpse into the chaos and suffering caused by the 2004 tsunami.John Thompson,  from  phukettsunami
Watch this interview of Naomi Watts and María Belón

Here are two more incredible stories from survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake & Tsunami:

1. Orphans of the 2004 Asian tsunami (on Telegraph, UK)

On December 31 2004, four British children boarded a Sri Lankan Airlines flight at Colombo airport bound for Heathrow, London. The children, as Rob, then 17, would later admit, had cut an odd sight walking through the airport that Friday morning. They had no parents, no luggage, no passports and, perhaps most puzzling of all, no shoes. Rob,17, Paul, 15, Matty, 12, and Rosie, 8, had all turned up at the airport barefoot…

Their life now…In 2011, Paul & Rob founded Gandys, a flip-flop company.  And the flip-flops, of course, are a cue to talk about their past. Especially as 10 per cent of Gandys’ profits will go to helping orphans in developing countries. By the 10th anniversary of the tsunami, in 2014, the brothers want to have set up their own children’s home as a memorial to their parents.  Click here to read the whole story… Also more on the Daily Mail/UK.

2. ‘I lost my children in the tsunami – now I’m raising orphans’ (on Gulf News)
He was playing with his son and daughters on the beach by their house in India when the tsunami struck, killing his children. Grief-stricken Karibeeran Paramesvaran realised he had to help those orphaned by the killer wave, and eight years on tells Anand Raj OK how throwing open the doors of their home has given him and his wife a reason to live

For the past eight years Karibeeran Paramesvaran has found it difficult to smile, let alone celebrate, on his birthday – December 26. “It’s a day I can never forget,’’ says the 48-year-old Indian, a resident of  Nagapattinam, a coastal city in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It’s easy to understand why – that’s the day the tsunami struck, taking with it his three children.

Less than two months after the killer tsunami snatched away their children, Karibeeran and Choodamani took a decision – to throw open the gates to their house. “I decided to welcome any orphan or homeless child into my home,’’ he says.

The Paramesvarans with some of the orphans
Photo source

“We felt there was no point in keeping our large four-bedroom house on the beach just to ourselves. We had lost all our children but we wanted to give a home to kids who were alive but had nowhere to go. We wanted to give all the love we would have showered on our children on the orphans in and around our village.’’Read the whole story…

The Task of Rebuilding after A Massive Destruction

1. “The ‘humbling strength’ of Minamisanriku’s mayor” 
Story from channel4
Jin Sato is a remarkable man with a thousand things on his mind. He is dealing with issues that no mayor should ever have to face, like working out how to rebuild his town, or whether to at all.
Trying to figure out how to help business recover and how to keep the young people from leaving, as they are doing, because there are no jobs in a place where most industry has been completely obliterated. He is even overseeing the recycling of his own town – how to dispose of the thousands of tonnes of rubble, cars, plastic, fridges and all the other things that make up a community which were smashed to pieces and strewn across miles of land by the surging waters.
To plan for the future he also has to face up to the task of finding out how many of his people have decided to leave for good never to return. Most of this once thriving town has been utterly destroyed…Read more…
2. “Rebuilding In Earthquake-Stricken Turkey 
With Eco-Friendly Strawbale Architecture?”Read the article on GreenProphet  

3.  “Post-Tsunami Reconstruction in Indonesia”

Read the article on global urban

4. “The Sichuan Earthquake: Helping Residents Rebuild Resilient, Healthy, and Sustainable Communities” Read the article on iscvt.org

My Personal Reflection:
Researching for this week’s blog has been heart wrenching for me. With the photos and videos available on the internet, not much is really left to the imagination. And every shot and footage of past earthquakes just tore my heart apart. You may wonder why I have taken the time and heart to present a whole week’s feature on earthquakes…because I’ve seen so much pain and loss that could’ve been prevented.

  • Had the people of Toledo in my hometown of Cebu had some sort of disaster preparedness training, folks would not have started a stampede when they felt the ground shake last Oct 15th, and the 4 year old  girl would not have been trampled to  death. (Read more info)
  • Had seismic building codes been strictly followed and enforced, 7,000 schools would not have been so badly damaged (3,340 of which needed to be rebuilt), many of the 5,335 pupils in Sichuan who died or went missing could have been saved…and 8,000 families would not have been left childless. *For many parents in Sichuan, China’s one-child policy meant the implications — and the  pain — were particularly severe. (Read more info)
  • Had there been tsunami awareness & preparedness around the globe, the tourists who were in awe of the spectacular site of the abrupt withdrawal of seawater that fateful day of Dec 26th 2004 at their resort would have known better that it wasn’t a photo moment but a run-for-your-life moment. (run to higher ground as fast as you can!).
These are only a few of the many things that have been running through my head as I did my prep-work for this week’s posts. I think that I am seeing the stories of loss and survival very differently now that I am a mother. I can empathise more, especially with María Belón, as she is portrayed in the movie The Impossible. I experienced so much pain as she struggled to save her son Lucas, and as the husband shouted as he searched through the rubble for his wife Maria and son– ‘Lucas, lucas…you see my son’s name is Lucas, and thus the pain became even more real for me.  I thought about what it would be like if I was washed away by the tsunami and my husband is looking for me, how would that feel for him to never find me…then i thought what if that was me looking for my son everywhere and not finding him. When you become a parent, you have to live not just for yourself and your dreams, but you have to live for others too. Thus, I believe that disaster preparedness is doubly important. I believe that if one values his life and the other people in his life,  then it is his duty to learn how he can best prepare for and survive a disaster. Some people in the Philippines say –when it’s time to go, it’s time to go and so nobody bothers with disaster preparedness.  For my fellow Visayans (Cebuanos and Boholanos) who were recently hit by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake  I  close this week’s feature with a popular anecdote (there are many versions of this story, here’s mine):

There was once a man who was swept away in a river. He feared that he was going to die. So, he prayed..”God, please help me.” Minutes later, a log floated by but  he didn’t grab it, and continued to struggle to keep himself afloat. Again he called to the heavens: “My dear God, I am your faithful servant,  help me.” Minutes later, a man paddled by in a canoe and tried to save him but he refused the man’s help.  To the skies he yelled out, “Oh Lord, my God, I have been faithful to your commandments and I have done fasting, abstinence, charity as prescribed by the church, have mercy on me !” Minutes later,  a helicopter came and dropped a ladder for him to climb. He pushed it away and refused help. At this point, the rapids dragged him to deep water and he eventually drowned. As he met His Creator in heaven, he was furious “God, how could you just let me die?!”  God cleared his throat and very calmly responded…”Many times I came to help you but you chose to die…there wasn’t much I could do.” “That is not true at all! Not once did I see the heavens part!” the man exclaimed. Then God said, “Yes, the heavens did not part…but I did send you a log, a canoe and even a helicopter.”

Yes, there is such a thing as God’s will but MAN also has FREE WILL. We must do our part to learn how we can survive and cling to life for as long as we could so that however way our life story ends we will be able to say, “I did my best!”
“The only thing that matters is love.
When you are touching death, 
you forget about everything else.”
María Belón
Scene from The Impossible

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This entry was posted on November 1, 2013 by in Uncategorized.
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